I ‘n’ I know Black History Month (February) as Bob Marley Month (Bob-ruary). Born Feb. 6, 1945 he would have been 75 had he not died of melanoma on May 11, 1981 (36 years old.)
In the Rasta community, they avoid death. So part of that Ras’pect is to say “livicate” not deadicate.
As a major Reggae collector I ‘n’ I had picked up some Marley reissues in the past year.
- Boston, ’78
Plus, a CD/DVD combo that was published on the West German rock television show Rockpalast. (See image at top.)
If you were a youth in the 70’s as I was, weekend night time rock and roll TV programs, like Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack fed viewers music television fix before the advent of MTV.
The Uprising disk/DVD = Rockpalast performance was recorded in Dortmund (West) Germany on June 13, 1980.
It was haunting. Bob was at his high point. I ‘n’ I always tell people you can gauge Bob’s age by the length of his dreads. The short and wiry, athletic Bob roamed the stage like a lion. Dreads flashing. Moving about the other group members. Full of energy and passion.
Bob’s nickname was Skipper. He was an exacting band leader who would even fine his wife Rita, among other band members, if they made a mistake. This was the video performance of a man and group leading Reggae into the mainstream.
The 80’s would have seen him at the top of the pop music pinnacle alongside stalwarts like Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, U2 and Madonna.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Almost 3 months later Bob collapsed running in New York’s Central Park. He performed one more show in Pittsburgh, PA (Sept. 23, 1980). And made his Exodus to Jah’s Heavenly Choir less than 8 months later.
As someone with a Ph.D. in Bobology, I was stunned. On stage in front of thousands, this was not the look of a many being ravaged by cancer.
<Bob’s Rockpalast performance; 72 sec.>
Bob’s passing shocked the Reggae world as well. In Jamaica, and elsewhere over the decades since May ’81, I ‘n’ I have culled nearly 50 Bob Tributes.
One thing about music when it hits you, you feel no pain. Artists exacted their grief in an expression of platonic love. Every Bobruary, I’n’ I rinse out those songs throughout the 4 weeks of Smile Jamaica editions.
<Marley Tribute phenomena; 40 sec.>
For the past several months I ‘n’ I have been tracking through the Wailers’ early pre-Island label catalog. We are on the 1970 recordings for Chinese Jamaican restauranteur, Leslie Kong
The Wailers had huge ska success with Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One label. But they would sell 80,000 copies of a record and be compensated $25.
So the group quit Studio One and created their own label: Tuff Gong. However, the Jamaican music business was cut throat. DIY groups like the Wailers couldn’t get their songs into the shops or on the radio as independents. So the label folded.
Thus they turned to one of Dodd’s competitors, Leslie Kong. Beverley’s, his label, was a successful Rock Steady label selling thousands of records in the UK, especially.
Record producer is the guy that funds the sessions.
- Recording in a music studio; pay for time
- Paying the musicians
- Paying the sound engineer
- Paying to mix the tape recording
- Paying to press the records
- Paying to distribute the records to shops domestically and internationally
- Payola to get the song on the radio.
The Wailers recorded about 10 songs. What to call it. Since Kong knew the group was hot, but records by the Wailers were hard to find, he wanted to call it Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
The group were hostile to that notion and felt they were being ripped off again. These weren’t their best songs. “Best” signifies the group was at its end, not a re-boot. The album is not exactly filler, and there are some great performances. But Best was a misnomer…at best.
The group wanted the album to be called Caution. This is where the Reggae apocrypha sneaks in. The Wailers were sighting up Rasta. With all that mystical and magical revelation, they warned Kong this offense would not go unpunished….Caution indeed.
Here is how Bunny Wailer described what happened in the liner notes of the Bunny album I have introduced on this podcast edition of Smile Jamaica. As part of I ‘n’ I Wailers Family Tree selections.
<The mysterious death of Leslie Kong; 2 min. 48 sec.>
As Bunny noted, Kong wanted to exploit the group’s sales potential: notoriety + scarcity = $$$. Call it Best Of and watch the records fly off the shelves.
He wasn’t interested in “art” but commerce. The Wailers took their craft seriously. Here was another rip off. Call it black magic obeah, divine justice or just the eerie circumstance of timing.
On the very day the records were to be sent to the shops, Kong died of a brain aneurysm. He was 38 years old. Caution indeed!
How about one more story:
Haile Selassie visited Jamaica in 1966. For Peter Tosh it was a foundation moment in the development of Rastafari worship.
<Rasta Shook Them Up: Peter Touch & the Wailers>
Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives: Jah-bruary 22, 2020 Annotated Playlist
- Jah Woosh – Love Jah and Live; D.J. Legend (Original) ’70’s UK vinyl
- Scientist & Forces of Music – Marcus Mosiah Garvey; International Heroes of Dub (Tamoki Wambesi) early 80’s UK vinyl dub album of the hour
- Horace Andy – Get Up; Living in the Flood (Melankolik) ’99 hidden track
- Johnny Clarke – Hypocrites; Be Thankful (Foundation Music) 70’s Bunny Lee prod’n
- Akabu – Blackbird; Warrior Queen (ON U Sound) ’89 UK roots dawta group
- Prince Far I – Lambs Bread Collie; Ten Commandments (Rhino) ’79? 4:20 Cannabis Service Announcement
- I Roy – Rootsman; 10″ (Observer Gold) ’76 UK
- Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths – Lean on Me; Sweet Memories (Nectar) ’76 married duo cover Bill Withers
- Taxi Gang – Twilight Zone; Many Moods of Sly, Robbie & the Taxi Gang (Sonic) ’86 TV theme instrumental
- Thievery Corporation feat. Black Uhuru – Boof ‘n’ Baff ‘n’ Biff; Abductions and Reconstructions (ES)
- Ganja Tree – Hard Road to Travel; 10″ (I-Grow) 2006 Fr. militant steppers
Set 3: Best of Smile Jamaica 30+ Years
- King Stitt – Fire Corner; Keep on Coming in the Dance (Trojan) ’69 comp.
<How King Stitch becomes King Stitt>
- Zap Pow – Roots Man Reggae; Zap Pow (VP) ’78
- Gregory Isaacs – Happiness Come; Love Is Overdue (Heartbeat) ’74
- Judy Mowatt – Sisters Chant; Black Woman (Shanachie) ’76
- Jah Power Band – No Formula Dub; Sensi Dub vol. 7 (Original) ’95 dub album of the hour
- Bunny Wailer – Tread Along; Jamaican Singles vol. 1 (Solomonic) ’69
- Triston Palmer & Jah Thomas – Give Me a Chance + Please Mr. Officer; In Disco Style Entertainment (Munich) ’80; Jah Thomas herbtune
- Bedouin Soundclash feat. Vernon Buckley – Higher Ground; Street Gospels (Sideonedummy) 2008 vox from The Maytones
- Abassi All-Stars feat. Minoo – December; No Answer 10″ EP (Deep Root) 2008 UK militant steppers feat. female vox
Set 5: Vinyl Is Vital
- Ranking Joe – Tribute to Bob Marley; Rebel DJ (Jam Rock) ’81 Miami vinyl
- The Blackstones – Soul Shakedown Party; Insight (Burning Sounds) ’81 UK red vinyl Bob Marley cover
- Sophia George – Tenement Yard; Fresh (Winner) ’85 UK
- Lee Milo – Hell is On Fire; Positive Movements (Rooney) ’89 Miami
- Ini Kamoze – I Want it Ital; Here Comes the Hotstepper (Columbia) ’84 US comp.
- Bob Marley & the Wailers – Back Out; Best of Bob Marley & the Wailers (Beverley’s) ’70 JA vinyl
- Chalice – Master Blaster Jammin; Best of Bob Marley Stevie Wonder Bob Marley Tribute
- Aisha – Tribulation; High Priestess (Ariwa) ’88
- Sane Inmates – Masquerade Dance; 10″ (Ariwa) 2006 UK
- Burning Babylon – Roots Fi Kool; Knives to the Trebel (Mars) 2004 Dub Album of the hour
- The Wailers feat. Peter Touch – Rasta Shook Them Up; The Toughest (Heartbeat/Studio One) ’66 about Selassie’s visit to Jamaica
- Bobby & Carol Kalphat – Memories of Bob; 7″ (Hit Vibes) ’81?
- Faith D’Aguilar – Reggae Pioneers; 7″ (Gorgon) ’83
- Lone Ranger – Tribute to Bob Marley; 7″ (Studio One) ’81
- Jennifer Lara – Natural Misty; 7″ (Studio One) ’81 Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic
Set 8; Mutant Dub
- Dub Syndicate feat. Big Youth – Wake Up; Fear of a Green Planet (Shanachie) ’98 Mutant Dub Set
- Aldubb feat. Longfingah – Straight From the Heart; Welcome to Bassland (One Drop) 2012 Germ.
- African Heard Charge feat. Prof. Stretch – Brother of Reality; Drums of Defiance (ON U Sound) ’98 UFOria
- Kid Loco – Three Foot High Reefer; Kill Your Darlings (Division One) 2001 Fr. herbtune
- 2 Badcard – Noise Polluters; Chainstore Massacre (ON U Sound) 2003 comp.
- Alpha & Omega feat. Nishka – Stepping Up + The Firmament; Dub Plate Selection vol. 2 (A & O) 2001 UK trance dub w/ female vox